SEA OF SORROWS, ISSUES #1-2
Writer: Rich Douek
Illustrator: Alex Cormack
Letterer: Justin Birch
WHAT IS IT?
Imagine there’s a literal boatload of treasure at the bottom of the ocean and it’s all within your grasp.
Aside from the monsters. Human or otherwise.
Think John Carpenter meets Seabury Quinn, and you're a quarter of the way there.
WHAT’S IT ABOUT?
Douek, Cormack and Birch are back with our second foray into historical horror. This time, it’s 1926. The precarious lull between World Wars has drawn some profiteers to a potential prize, with devastating consequences.
Sea of Sorrows takes us on an underwater horror trip to salvage a German U-boat laden with gold. We’ve got a ragtag (and hostile) crew, some war trauma, a big expanse of treacherous ocean and a mysterious, violent entity that’s claimed two men, and will likely claim more.
Horror requires mood, and mood is hard to build in comics when our eye can move pretty much anywhere on the page at any point. Douek and Cormack do a great job establishing a tense atmosphere with a slow pace, world-building conversation and a whole lot of black.
Douek has a knack for crafting dialogue that gives us insight into each character and kicks the plot down the road without bogging everything down in expository detail. It’s a hard balance to hit.
Cormack’s art is evocative, with a precise line, diagonal shading and texture, and a boatload of shadow. Cormack sets up a nice contrast on the first page of issue #1 that he carries through the rest of the work so far as a visual symbol, and the deep shadows in the book actually mean something.
Cormack also gets creative with the color palette in Sea of Sorrows, and draws color through these first two issues in some interesting ways. The flare of a cigarette cherry bathes a character’s face in the same gold as the bar in the previous scene, and there’s some nice transition work on a page turn with a flare shot into a night sky that precludes a different kind of red.
We have a large cast and Cormack breaks conversations up with background washes that are appropriate for each locale (on deck at sunset, in the orange-lit galley.) We’re on the hunt for color in all of this blackness, thematically and literally, and Cormack does not disappoint.
Birch keeps everything readable and ticking along with a deceptively simple font. Gs, Os and As sport some nice little tweaky details, and the font gives Birch room to add some splashy bursts and keep things period-appropriate when necessary. The balloons have a nice stroke to complement Cormack’s line, too.
WHAT DOESN’T WORK?
Cormack favors an almost negative style for some of the underwater scenes, and it can be difficult to orient characters occasionally. The high points are there, but a bit more clarity would help.
Birch accents some of the balloons with air bubbles for the underwater scenes, and some of the bubble outlines intersect the letters. It’s a very small quibble and the intent is likely to obscure, but that obscuring can break the book’s reality for a second.
Fans of immediate high spots and splashy violence in horror might find this a bit of a slow start. This isn’t your average gore fest, and should be appreciated for its measured pace.
WHY SHOULD I READ IT?
If you’re a fan of Road of Bones and you want to see what else this team has up their sleeve, this book’s a must-read. If you like John Carpenter’s The Thing and feel like horror’s not horror unless a bunch of people are crammed into a bottle and hunted to death, this book is for you. If you’re a fan of well-paced, tense horror in general, this book’s definitely for you.
Sea of Sorrows immediately promises a good story, and begins to deliver on its premise. What more could we ask for?
WHAT SHOULD I READ NEXT?
If you like the writing:
Gutter Magic by Rich Douek & Brett Barkley
Sub-Mariner: The Depths by Peter Milligan & Esad Ribić
The Autumnal by Daniel Kraus & Chris Shehan
If you like the art:
Road of Bones by Rich Douek & Alex Cormack
Sink by John Lees & Alex Cormack
Black Badge by Matt Kindt & Tyler Jenkins
ABOUT THE CREATORS
Rich Douek (@rdouek) – Writer
Dream Team: all three members of this creative team made Road of Bones last year - a dark mini set in a Russian gulag
Rich’s forays into horror are netting comics fans some grisly and unique material. Stay tuned.
Alex Cormack (@AlexCormack4) – Artist
Cormac’s work on Sink and Road of Bones cemented his chops as a distinctive horror artist.
You can take a peek at what he’s dreaming up on Patreon.
Justsin Birch (@JustinBirch) – Letterer
Name Recognition: Lettering aficionados take note - Birch has a Ringo award nomination under his belt and has worked for everyone from DC to Vault.
He’s also a member of the AndWorld Design lettering studio.
WHERE DO I BUY IT?
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